Auriculas and How to Grow Them

Primula auricula or mountain cowslip or bear’s ear

About the Auricula Plant

Primula auricula, more commonly known as auricula, mountain cowslip or bear’s ear, is an alpine flowering plant that originates from the mountain ranges of Central Europe. The auricula first appeared in European gardens around the middle of the sixteenth century. Since then its rather beautiful ‘unreal’ appearance has made it a collectors plant and has led to the creation of many cultivars including show varieties. The Victorians in particular had a fondness for this showy little plant and it became fashionable to display many varieties in auricula theatres. This little plant is easy to grow. Here follows a short guide to growing auriculas and some of my favourite varieties.

Auriculas of Different Colours

Growing Auriculas

Auriculas prefer to be outdoors where it is cool, however, they don’t like to be too wet. They also don’t like too much direct sun (this particularly applies to the more showy varieties). This is one of the main reasons they have been traditionally grown in theatres – tiered open fronted wooden structures where these little plants can be kept cool and well ventilated but protected from the extremes of weather.

Primula Auricula in the Spring Flower Bed

When to Plant

Auriculas flower in spring so prepare the plants in January by giving them a good feed with a general all-round fertiliser. Once they start to put on growth switch to a phosphate based fertiliser for the rest of the growing/flowering season. Once the plants have finished flowering they can be repotted into outdoor planters filled with well-drained, gritty compost and then placed somewhere shady for the summer. Keep them moist during the summer months but then dry in the winter.

Colorful small blooms of Primula Auricula

Auricula Varieties

If you are growing auriculas for the first time it is best to start with the less showy varieties as these tend to be slightly more challenging. Auriculas come in many colours; there are double varieties as well as the more fancy show varieties. Border auriculas such as Blue Velvet with its deep blue petals and yellow centre, or Old Suffolk Bronze with its pale bronze petals are easy to grow and can be successfully grown in a border and tend to be larger plants. If you want a slightly more showy plant to grow in outdoor planters, then try some of the double varieties. The stunning Sarah Gisby has petals in vintage dull red shades. Or Delilah which is a lovely deep red with gold at the centre and at the base of the petals. Some of the show varieties are really amazing. The striped varieties have striped petals – try Mazette Stripe which has distinctive dark red and green stripes. There are also edged fancies whose petals are edged in either green or white. I love Sweet Pastures whose yellow petals are edged in green.

Source: Jo Poultney

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